The University of South Carolina officially commenced the search for its 35th head football coach Sunday night with the announcement that Will Muschamp had been relieved of his duties after 58 games. So, let the spit-balling begin. There’s nothing more common to a coaching search than the media and fans spewing out the names of would-be candidates. Some stick. Most don’t. As a service to you, we have created the spit-blog, a blog for spitballing the names associated with the search, along with the rumors, and facts, that are attached to them. We will keep the blog posted at the top of the website and update it with our information. And we invite your comments.
(November 25th) (UPDATED)
According to a source, Louisiana coach Billy Napier interviewed with USC AD Ray Tanner earlier this week via Zoom. Napier is dealing with Covid-19 issues this week, such as quarantining, thus an in person interview was not possible. Napier and Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell are the two confirmed interviews at this point in the process. A source said Tanner and Chadwell met earlier this week at a restaurant in Pawley’s Island. Despite his impressive credentials as a head coach, a source said Caldwell’s lack of any experience on the FBS level, until Coastal recently moved up from FCS, could be an issue that will keep him lower down the ladder as the search moves on.
Looks like the spitball for Louisville coach Scott Satterfield can be scraped off the wall and tossed into the garbage. Apparently responding to a report by Josh Kendall in The Athletic Tuesday night that he would be interviewed by the Gamecocks after Thanksgiving, Satterfield issued a statement that seems to indicate he is staying put with the Cardinals. Satterfield put his message out on his Twitter:
Kendall also reported the Gamecocks had interviewed Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell. Kendall did not cite a specific date for the interview. Reached by text for confirmation Tuesday night, Chadwell replied as if he were being asked if he interviewed on Tuesday. “Lol I have been at practice and we are watching video right now. Not true. I was here all day.” Asked if he had interviewed any other day over the last week with the Gamecocks, Chadwell did not respond. Coastal AD Matt Hogue said he had not been contacted by USC regarding permission to talk with his coach, but that practice is rarely, if ever, followed these days.
Kendall also reported Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer will interview after Thanksgiving, something that has been expected since the beginning of the search. We would also expect Louisiana coach Billy Napier to have an in person interview once he’s recovered from his bout with Covid. Army coach Jeff Monken, who was hired by Caslen at West Point, and Liberty coach Hugh Freeze are two others who could be in line for interviews.
A source tells us Las Vegas Raiders assistant head coach Rich Bisaccia has had conversations with people around the program about the job, but not with the decision makers at this point. The source said Bisaccia craves the USC job and feels like he would strong impress Ray Tanner and Bob Caslen if he could get his plan in front of them.
A name we spit-blogged early in the process was that of former USC assistant coach and current Las Vegas Raiders assistant head coach Rich Bisaccia. A source told us Monday to keep an eye on the Bisaccia candidacy this week. Bisaccia has long wanted the job at USC and has inquired about it during previous searches, but without much traction. This time we are told it could be different, and the interviews this week will go a long way in determining that. Bisaccia seems to be one who has caught the attention of USC president Bob Caslen, who is working with AD Ray Tanner and will sign off on the hire. Bisaccia turned 60 last summer. He has been in the NFL since 2002 and has been the assistant head coach for Tampa Bay, San Diego, Dallas and Oakland/Las Vegas. He has specialized in running backs and special teams throughout his career. His time at USC dates back to when he was a graduate assistant for Joe Morrison in 1988. He stayed on with Sparky Woods thru the 1993 season and during his time he coached tight ends, wide receivers, defensive ends and running backs. He coached running backs and coordinated special teams at Clemson from 1994-1998, then spent three seasons at Ole Miss before moving to the NFL. According to a source, Bisaccia would be able to start at USC as soon as they wanted him too if he is offered the job. Bisaccia owns property in the Columbia area. While Tanner has talked to multiple candidates by phone (see the November 22nd spit-blog)), there has not yet been a formal interview conducted with any of the candidates. Those are expected to take place this week.
And who might those interviews involve? Based on information from sources over the last eight days, the list of potential interview targets at this point would include Bisaccia, Shane Beamer, Jeff Monken, Billy Napier, Jamey Chadwell, Scott Satterfield and Hugh Freeze. Some of those names could be scratched and others could be added as the week progresses.
We spit out some late Saturday information for you. Ray Tanner has wrapped up his first week of the search and we’re told he was able to talk by phone with some of the top candidates he’s considering. He has not yet had any in person meetings with candidates but those are expected to start next week. According to sources, Tanner has had the chance to talk with Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer, Louisiana head coach Billy Napier, Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Caldwell, Louisville coach Scott Satterfield, Army coach Jeff Monken, and Liberty coach Hugh Freeze. We’re not expecting Monken and Freeze to be major players moving forward. Monken was hired at Army by current USC president Bob Caslen, so it’s reasonable that Tanner would want to satisfy his boss by talking with him. And as we’ve said before about Freeze, some board members want to see him more involved but his past NCAA and off the field issues at Ole Miss remain a non-starter. The other four look like pretty solid candidates at this point. I would imagine the calls this week were get-to-know-you conversations and gave Tanner a chance to get a read on each candidate’s interest. Our sources continue to indicate that Beamer, who is seeking his first head coaching position, is as interested in the Gamecock job as a candidate can be. Having been born in Charleston and having coached for the Gamecocks, Beamer has told people close to him that the USC position is his dream job. From what sources have told us, Beamer remains in strong position for the job, maybe the frontrunner at this point. We’re hearing Napier, who has been mentioned prominently from the start of the search, may not be as strong a candidate as he once was. Earlier this week Vegas listed him as the 3/1 betting favorite. Satterfield, of course, is highly regarded for what he did at Appalachian State and in 2019 at Louisville. His team has struggled this season though it did have a big win over Syracuse Friday night. Caldwell is the wildcard. His team is 8-0 after beating Appalachian State Saturday and likely to climb higher in the polls Sunday. He has been a winner at every stop of his coaching career but his lack of high level FBS coaching experience might work against him. Until Coastal moved up to FBS two years ago, Chadwell had never coached above the FCS level.
Following up on our information from Thursday night, source information leads us to believe there was conversation Friday between Ray Tanner and Billy Napier. We have not pinned down if that conversation was in person, virtually or over the phone. Napier has an unplanned off weekend with his team sidelined with Covid-19 issues.
We also confirmed Friday through a source Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer has had a couple of conversations with the third party representing USC. It’s likely Beamer and Tanner will have conversations next week. The source said Beamer is highly interested in the USC job, partially because he considers himself a native of the state having been born in Charleston, and partially because of his previous time at USC in the Steve Spurrier staff. The source said Beamer has called the job his “dream job.”
At this point, Napier and Beamer appear to be the first two candidates in line for conversations with Tanner.
According to a source, one concern that has been brought up by at least one candidate is Tanners’ security at USC. Tanner has come under fire and the coach has concerns about being hired by Tanner but then having to work under a different boss at some point.
One of the first names spitballed once the USC job opened was Louisiana coach Billy Napier. The Furman graduate and former Clemson offensive coordinator is in his third season as head coach of the Rajin Cajuns, and he’s done nothing but win in Lafayette. He has a 25-11 overall record at this point in his career and is 18-5 in Sun Belt Conference play. His team this season is 7-1, ranked 24th and has clinched the West Division title in the Sun Belt for the third straight season. Napier is considered to be one of the bright, young coaches in college football and no doubt Ray Tanner has recognized that. At this stage of the process, it stands to reason Tanner has talked to some candidates, including Napier. A source told us Thursday night that indeed Tanner and Napier have talked. And there’s more. Because of Covid-19 issues, Louisiana’s game this Saturday was postponed leaving Napier with an open weekend. We wrote Thursday about this and thought out loud about this being an opportunity for Tanner and Napier to meet. A source agreed that could happen Friday, going so far as to say it’s likely to happen. Other projected top candidates, like Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer and Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, are involved in games this Saturday. Napier has signed two contract extensions at Louisiana and is under contract thru 2025. According to the Daily Advertiser, Napier is to make $880,000 this season with scheduled increases taking his pay to $950,000 for 2024 and 2025. His buyout for this year is $1.25 million dollars.
Not long after Will Muschamp was fired, one of the first names spitballed as a candidate was Jamey Chadwell of Coastal Carolina. And for good reason. He has won everywhere he has set his boots. He coaches an exciting style of offense, is young and does a great job with the media. And his team this season has been the talk of college football surging all the way to #15 in the country at this point and looking to go undefeated in the Sun Belt. What’s not to like? Chadwell is a regular guest on SportsTalk so his appearance Wednesday night was not unusual. And it gave us the opportunity to ask about the USC job. So, has Chadwell or any of his representatives been contacted by any official representatives of USC? “That would be a no.” Would he expect to be contacted? “I don’t know anybody at South Carolina obviously. I’m sure they’ve got a deep pool that they are looking at. If they do (contact him), great. You know, that’s awesome. Love to talk to them. If they don’t, we’ve got a great job here as well.” Well, that certainly reads like Chadwell would at least take the call from Ray Tanner or the search firm rep he’s hired to vet candidates. And why haven’t they made the call? Certainly the sore feelings of the past between the USC old guard and the leaders of Coastal wouldn’t serve as a deterrent, would they? It would be a shame for USC to miss out on an opportunity to at least interview one of the nation’s hottest young coaches over some decades old political battles.
A source of ours in the world of sports agents told us Wednesday the word he’s getting on the search from people in his business and in coaching circles is that Shane Beamer, Billy Napier and Steve Sarkisian might be the top three candidates at this early point in the process. Take that for what it’s worth, but agents usually do have a pretty good feel for these things. Remember, this spit-blog so we’re throwing things out there to see what sticks.
Sarkisian is the oldest of the three at age 46 and he’s twice been a head coach at major programs, Washington and Southern Cal. He went 46-35 during those stints. As has been well documented, Sarkisian took a leave of absence from his job with the Trojans to deal with alcohol related issues, and he was later fired from his job there. Nick Saban hired him as an analyst at Alabama in 2016, then he spent two seasons as the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator before he was fired there at the end of the 2018 season. Saban rehired him as his offensive coordinator in January of 2019. Sarkisian makes $2.5 million dollars per season and has a three year contract with the Crimson Tide.
With this being Thursday and games coming up this weekend, it stands to reason that Beamer and Sarkisian aren’t going to be thinking about anything but their responsibilities for their current teams. But, Napier has an unexpected weekend off after Covid issues popped up in his program forcing a postponement of his game. Would this provide Tanner and Bob Caslen an opportunity to visit with Napier, at least virtually? Something to think about as the search enters its first weekend.
A note dropped on me Tuesday night related to Shane Beamer. Should he land the job, his close friend is North Carolina co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Jay Bateman. In his first season with the Tar Heels, Bateman help the defense improve 56 positions in the national ranking by allowing 373 yards per game. The unit has not been as good this season allowing 413 yards per game. Before coming to UNC, Bateman spent five seasons at Army when current USC president Bob Casley served as superintendent there.
Last Vegas oddsmakers are paying attention to the Gamecocks’ search for a new coach. Opening odds were issued Tuesday by BetOnline: Billy Napier 3/1; Hugh Freeze 4/1; Shane Beamer 5/1; Jamey Chadwell 6/1; Luke Fickell 7/1; Tony Elliott 15/2; Scott Satterfield 8/1; Bill O’Brien 9/1; Brent Venables 10/1; Steve Sarkisian 10/1; Will Healy 10/1; Joe Brady 12/1; Jeff Monken 12/1; Bill Clark 14/1.
How would you feel about Kansas City Chiefs highly regarded offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy being adding to the search list? You should feel pretty good. He’s one of the 20 or so names being studied by Ray Tanner as he continues his search for a new football coach. Bieniemy has been the offensive coordinator with the Chiefs since 2018 and has been mentioned for several NFL and college jobs. We all know how good the Chiefs are on offense. Bieniemy was third in the Heisman voting as a running back at Colorado in 1990 when he rushed for over 1600 yards.
Former USC assistant Rich Bisaccia, now the assistant head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders and a veteran of four NFL coaching stops, would love to be considered for the job. He calls the USC job his dream job. He is in his 19th NFL season. He also has coached in college at Clemson, Ole Miss and his alma mater of Wayne State.
Louisville coach Scott Satterfield could draw a look as well. He’s 10-11 in his second season with the Cardinals and before that he was 51-24 at Appalachian State. He was to make $3.25 millon this season prior to any Covid-19 reduction.
Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott also remains viable at this point. Elliott, as has been his practice, won’t entertain any overtures from other schools until Clemson completes its season at least thru the ACC Championship Game.
There is at least one member of the USC board, maybe more, who wants Tanner to visit with Liberty coach Hugh Freeze. That is not in the works at this point.
Tanner is using an individual from a search firm to help him make contacts with agents and do background checks on candidates. Contact has been made with the agent for Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer, and agents for other candidates have been contacted as well to gauge interest.
Tanner said at his press conference Monday that school president Bob Caslen would be instrumental in working with him on the search. Caslen played a major role in hiring Jeff Monken at Army. The plan is for Caslen to join Tanner for the in-person interviews with candidates when those are scheduled.
Tanner also pinpointed the December 16th early signing day as an endpoint for the search. It makes sense to figure he’d really like to have his coach on board at least a week earlier to allow for some staff organization and last minute recruiting. I would think around December 9th or 10th, if possible, Tanner would like to have his man.
USC AD Ray Tanner held a Zoom press conference with the media Monday morning. The 30 minute session opened with Tanner expressing his appreciation for Will Muschamp and his belief that Muschamp left behind a culture the new coach can build upon. Muschamp appeared emotional at times, especially when describing his conversation with Muschamp in which he delivered him the bad news. Tanner said he is a one man committee but will be working with USC President Bob Caslen and answering to him. His hope is to have a new head coach on board within the month. Tanner said he would like a young, offensive minded coach who can bring energy, enthusiasm and fun into the program, noting that the fun is in the winning. Tanner Sunday promoted offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo to interim head coach and said the former Colorado State head coach could be one he considers for the job.
Three popular names being spitballed are Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer, Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell and Louisiana head coach Billy Napier. All three have supporters among USC board members. Beamer is a former Gamecock assistant and the son of Hall of Fame coach Frank Beamer. He is viewed as a coach who would bring a CEO approach to the job who would hire an excellent staff and allow his to carry their weight. Beamer works for Lincoln Riley, a coach Tanner interviewed in December of 2015. It’s possible, if not likely, that Tanner has talked to Riley a couple of times regarding Beamer.
Chadwell is having a career season at Coastal as the Chants are unbeaten and ranked 15th. His read-option offense has been one of the nation’s best. Chadwell also built winning teams at North Greenville and Charleston Southern. Napier is a Furman grad and former Clemson offensive coordinator who is 25-11 in his third season and vying for his third straight Sun Belt West Division title.
Let’s spitball the name of North Carolina offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Phil Longo. He has the Tar Heels air-raid offense ranked #3 nationally at over 530 yards per game, and he has developed quarterback Sam Howell into one of the best passers in the country. Longo enjoyed the same kind of success in two years as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Ole Miss. He also has two years of head coaching experience at La Salle. At age 52, Longo is not too old in coaching terms, but he might not fit the youthful profile Tanner is seeking.
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell sees his name mentioned for a lot of jobs viewed a superior to his current one. That includes USC’s opening. A couple of things to consider here. Campbell signed a contract extension last December supposedly tying him to the school thru the 2025 season. He was scheduled to make 3.7 million dollars this season, but the school is cutting $248,562 from his salary as a pandemic reduction. So, if Campbell is already making 3.7 million at Iowa State, it’s likely he wouldn’t leave for anything less than 4 million per season. Would the Gamecocks go that high? Muschamp was scheduled to make $4.6 million this season before his pandemic reduction. Campbell also had a buyout going into 2020 that would cost him (or a school that hires him) 6 million dollars. He is 31-27 at Iowa State including a 3-9 first season. He was 35-15 in five seasons at Toledo.
We’re told AD Ray Tanner would like to hire a younger coach with a strong offensive background, but the door is not closed to any qualified candidate. Our information the past week has been that Liberty coach Hugh Freeze won’t be considered due to his off the field and NCAA issues at Ole Miss. The university has hired a search firm to help with the background checks and other behind the scenes contacts with candidates and agents. AD Ray Tanner has his list of potential candidates including some recommended by a highly regarded NFL head coach. We’re told that some names passed along to Tanner include Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. As for other names to spitball, there’s Jamey Chadwell of Coastal Carolina, Billy Napier of Louisiana, Matt Campbell of Iowa State, Oklahoma assistant head coach and former Gamecock assistant Shane Beamer, Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady and Las Vegas Raiders assistant head coach and former Gamecock assistant Rich Bisaccia. We will update as more information, or spit, becomes available.